Anthony Smith, geriatric explorer, RIP
Another "working class house hero" has been discovered! Or, more accurately, I just learned that this pretty cool old guy existed, and I want to take a minute to write about him and how his work fits in with the "working class house" aesthetic.
The fast facts: Anthony Smith, recently deceased British adventurer, is most famous for building and sailing a raft across the Atlantic in his eighties. He sailed with three other "OAPs" (Old Age Pensioners), and part of the trip was funded by an insurance settlement after he got run over by a van. Yeah, that's right: this senior citizen started planning a raft voyage across the Atlantic, and even when he got hit by a van, didn't give up, he used it to his advantage. Talk about when life gives you lemons.... More details can be found here, or in the book Mr. Smith wrote about his adventures, The Old Man and the Sea.
What appealed to me about Mr. Smith was his apparent acceptance of death as a possible outcome of his expedition. Some people would use this as the main argument against doing what he did --you could get killed! True, but he could have been killed by that van as he crossed the street. And, as he and his crew would surely admit, they were going to die anyway, as we all are. So the question becomes not can I die, but can I live? It seems to me that at the heart of many of the problems I have with taking the well-travelled road, and doing what conventional wisdom and the crowd would advise, is that it seems to ignore the fundamental fact that we will die.
I'm 41. My father's descent into dementia and Alzheimer's started before he turned 70, and killed him at 73. This is apparently not uncommon in the men on his side of the family, and physically I mostly take after my dad, rather than my mother's side. I'm not expecting to hit 80. If I were to undertake a traditional 30 year mortgage, I would probably die right as I paid it off. That doesn't leave much room for retirement. So, with this fact in mind, what am I going to do with my life? Well, lots of things, but definitely not spend the next 30 years working to pay for a big house.
One of the great philosophical questions is what should a man do with his life. I don't know. Wisdom was never one of my strong defining characteristics. But if there is an answer, some ideal way of living and behaving, then that ideal is something we should all move towards. For me, spending less time buying things and more time living is a way for me to move closer to that ideal.